KC Royals: How Greg Holland UCL Tear Affects His Future


KC Royals closer Greg Holland has suffered an elbow ligament injury. The team describes it as a “significant” ulnar collateral ligament tear that they have known about since August. Holland insisted on pitching until recent performances made it clear he could not continue this season. The key question now is: how does this injury affect both his short-term, and long term future with the Kansas City Royals?

Part of the answer depends on how the 29-year-old Greg Holland decides to treat his injury. He is currently seeking a second medical opinion and will shortly make the decision whether or not to undergo Tommy John surgery.

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Apparently, like Yu Darvish, Greg Holland has enough ligament remaining that he could attempt to rest and strengthen the muscles around the elbow rather than go under the knife. Or, at least, Holland still hopes such an option is available.

Remember, Greg Holland was still able to throw 90 miles per hour (mph) before deciding to shut it down this season. Presumably, with rest, he could regain some velocity. In that case, Holland would go into his last arbitration year with the KC Royals seeking to reach a contract agreement with the team.

The problem is, Greg Holland’s 32 saves and 3.83 ERA still put him in line for a raise next season. Though unimpressive by his standards, the 3.83 ERA translates to an adjusted ERA (ERA+) of 108 (eight percent better than league-average) and a 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). Since Holland is making $8.2 million this season, the Kansas City Royals are probably looking at an arbitration number north of $10 million if they want to bring back Holland for next season. That’s even with his elbow injury.

My instincts tell me that the price is too high for a player with a significant risk of blowing out his elbow. It’s not as if the KCRoyals are going to get a bargain contract, with Greg Holland recently hiring super-agent Scott Boras to handle his impending free-agency.

If Greg Holland opts for elbow surgery, he could miss the entire 2016 season. Oddly enough, that choice will probably bring him back for at least one more season with the Kansas City Royals since his major-league service time will not advance while he rehabs. The KC Royals will still have one remaining arbitration year.

Then the question becomes, does general manager Dayton Moore wish to invest $10 million for Holland’s return-from-injury season? Tommy John patients typically do not fully recover until their second season back from the injury. And that’s if everything goes well.

Though, in Greg Holland’s case, he could theoretically return to pitching at the end of next season with immediate surgery due to the typical one-year recovery time. He might actually be available for a 2016 playoff run.

In this case, the KC Royals and Holland might be better served to cut a Kris Medlen type of deal. Agree to a two-year deal with a small 2016 salary in hopes Holland can return for the stretch run with a $10 million (or so) club option in the second season. The contract would include a vesting term that would fully guarantee the second season if Holland makes a successful late-season return.

Such a deal might serve both parties interests. The Kansas City Royals would get a recovered Greg Holland in 2017 and the hope of adding him for the 2016 playoffs. Holland would give up one free agent year, but will have the chance to re-establish his value for a possible mega-contract after 2017.

Next: The Royals Did Not Mishandle Greg Holland

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